Steamship Authority names COO

Mark Higgins will help manage ferry operations.

Mark Higgins is the new COO of the Steamship Authority. — Courtesy SSA

A little over a year since the Steamship Authority authorized a search for a chief operations officer (COO), Mark Higgins, former director of the Maine State Ferry Service, was hired for the position. While it’s been a year since authorizing the position, the hiring is five years in the making, with state lawmakers pushing for its creation.

The Steamship Authority board had a chance to meet the new COO during its Wednesday morning meeting on March 29 at the organization’s Falmouth office. “I’m excited to join the Steamship Authority,” Higgins told the board.

The Steamship said in a press release that creating a COO position was one of the recommendations made by the firms HMS Consulting, Glosten Associates, and Rigor Analytics, who did a comprehensive review of the SSA’s operations in 2018. The report was authorized by the board after hundreds of cancellations and mechanical failures plagued the Vineyard route in 2018.

The release said the search for a COO was suspended because of the COVID pandemic, but the board asked for the incorporation of the position in SSA management in 2022. 

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes and State Sen. Julian Cyr filed legislation last year which called for the establishment of a COO, along with term limits for SSA board members.

Higgins will begin work in early April. According to a press release, the new hire will be responsible for planning, directing, and overseeing all activities of the SSA’s marine operations, shoreside operations, and engineering departments, and the operations and communication center. 

He will work with SSA general manager Robert Davis so vessel and shoreside operations teams collaborate to make sure schedules are met and communication channels are managed, alongside the maintenance and improvement of “efficiencies, and focus” on development plans. 

“Attracting an accomplished maritime professional of Mark’s caliber to the Steamship Authority underscores our commitment to enhance and evolve service offerings as we chart a course for the future,” Davis said in the release. “His decades of experience, especially his tenure with the State of Maine and his recent work to oversee the development of a hybrid ferry, will help advance many of our ongoing efforts to increase our sustainable and responsible business practices.”

With more than 30 years of commercial and public sector leadership experience, Higgins’ most recent position was with Maine State Ferry Service, where he stayed for more than five years. At the Maine ferry service, he managed an operation that served six island municipalities. During his tenure, Higgins worked to modernize ferry operations. The release said this included overseeing the design and construction of “one of the nation’s first oceangoing hybrid electric passenger and vehicle ferries.”

Higgins is from Maine, and graduated from Maine Maritime Academy with a degree in marine engineering technology. He and his wife, Heather, have five grown children.


  1. It took me almost 2 hours starting at 5am to book this summers reservation. After my fourth try between my computer crashing and my profile number not accepted I nearly gave up. Hundreds, thousands go on that site the same day and time each year and it’s always a headache. Even with the reservation I somehow still end up in the stand by line the last two years waiting up to two hours for a boat. Can we do better?

  2. I too have found this advanced reservation more than impossible. Waking up at 4:00am to start to my reservation process and eventually by 7:00am to find I cannot get a daytime Ferry is not uncommon. It happens every year.

    Finally I wait for an earlier time and get it 3 months later. What’s the point?

    Barbara Sims

  3. We can do better!!!
    We can spend millions more dollars on a reservation system that will provide 24 hour/365 day instant reservation gratification.
    We can charge more for tickets.
    Do you think that they are too low?

    • I don’t know if you get some sort of satisfaction or gratification by caustically replying to nearly every article on this site and contributing little to the actual discussion, but it is remarkably unhelpful.

      To the article here, I am glad that the COO is finally in place. We can only hope he conducts his viewing tour of current operations and fixes/streamlines processes. The Steamship should be a pleasant experience but is riddled with well-documented inefficiencies and just generally poor operating practices.

      • Please continue to bash SSA management.
        It is remarkable helpful.
        Do you have the documents that document the well-documented inefficiencies and just generally poor operating practices.
        Please add to the discussion, be helpful.

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